Saturday, 2 November 2013

Reviving the Srirangapatna Dasara

The Festival of Lights or Deepavali is on and Dassara or Dasara, the State festival, has just ended.
Lakhs of people have gone back with fond memories of the Dasara at Mysore. The many literary, cultural, religious and sporting events held at Mysore as part of the Dasara drew fairly large crowds.
Events such as wrestling or Kusti, the Jumboo Savari or procession drew large crowds. However, the Dasara at Mysore definitely overshadowed and overwhelmed a similar event at Srirangapatna where the event began.
It was in this fort town in the midst of the Cauvery that Raja Wodeyar commenced the tradition of Dasara. When Abhimanyu, the 47 year-old-tusker carried the idol of Goddess Chamundi during the Dasara procession in Srirangapatna, the event triggered  memories when the festival was held here till it was shifted to Mysore in 1800.
The origin of the present Dasara goes back to the Vijayanagars and after the fall of Hampi in 1565, Dasara all but disappeared as a public function. When Raja Wodeyar, the King of Mysore, defeated Sriranaga Raya, the Viceroy of Srirangapatna and a representative of the Vijayanagar Empire in 1610, he captured the town of  Srirangapatna.
Realising the strategic importance of locating a capital in an island, Raja Wodeyar shifted his capital from Mysore to Srirangapatna. He began ruling from Srirangapatna and he also decided to revive the annual Dasara festivities.
The magnificent Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangapatna was the centre of Dasara activities just as the Vijaya Vittala and Virupaksha Temple were in Hampi. Raja Wodeyar set the ball rolling for the coming centuries when he gave directions on the conduct of the Dasara festivities.
He set rules for the conduct of the festival and ordained that the festival should not stop even if there is a death in the royal family. There was one soon after he framed these rules and the King ordered the festivities to go on.  
Thus, after Hampi, it was Srirangapatna which became the centre of Dasara in Karnataka. Several Wodeyar Kings, including Ranadheera Kanteerava or Kanthirava Narasaraja Wodeyar (1638 -1659 AD) and Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar (1673 -1704 AD) contributed immensely to the growth of the Dasara in Srirangapatna, while subsequent Kings like Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (III) (1799 - 1868 AD), Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar -IV (1902 -1940 AD) and Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar (1940-1947) did so in Mysore.
For several decades, Srirangapatna Dasara was a forgotten episode. Neither the Government nor the people displayed any interest in reviving an ancient tradition. This was so until a few years back-till 2007- when the Mandya district administration woke up to the tourist and pilgrim potential of the Dasara at Srirangapatna too.   
Since the last four years, the government has been trying to resurrect the glory of Srirangapatna Dasara. It has ensured that a Dasara procession is organized just like the one at Mysore and a caparisoned elephant leads the procession.
The Jamboo Savari of Srirangapatna drew fairly large crowds this October as Abhimanyu carried the idol, placed in a flower decorated mantap.
The Srirangapatna Dasara was inaugurated by G Venkatasubbaiah, lexicographer and Kannada writer, at Bannimanatap. He offered  pooja to Goddess Chamundi. The Mysore Dasara was from the main palace to Banni Mantapa, while its counterpart in Srirangapatna saw the procession from Banni Mantapa near the Kirangur Gate, off the Bangalore-Mysore Highway to Srirangapatna where it ended at the Ranganathaswamy Temple.
There was cultural and musical events during the five day Dasara festival at Srirangapatna.
The Mysore Dasara Committee had lent five elephants, horses and a wooden ‘ambari’ for the procession. This year’s attraction was the spectacular sound and light show (Son et lumiere), about the rise and fall of Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore who was killed in battle in 1799.
Forty tableaux by various government departments, organisations and folk art troupes  accompanied the Jamboo Savari procession. The cultural and musical events were organized at Sriranga Vedike, near Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple. Unfortunately, the Srirangapatna Dasara was not as well publicised as the Mysore and Madikeri Dasara. Thousands of visitors to Mysore were unaware of this Dasara.
Dasara in Srirangapatna continued even under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Both of them allowed the Wodeyar Kings to participate in the Dasara procession. Thus, Srirangapatna had a history of Dasara from 1610 till 1798 after which it was shifted to Mysore.
There are many accounts of the Dasara held in Srirangapatna by the Wodeyars. The then Wodeyar rulers did their best to revive the glory and pomp of the Vijayanagar Dasara and they succeeded in doing so to a large extent.
One of the best accounts of the Srirangapatna Dasara is in the work of Govinda Vaidya, the court poet of Ranadheera Kanteerava. He gives us a beautiful and evocative account of the Vijayadashami procession in Kantirava Narasaraja Vijayam in 1648 which he calls Jambi Savari, meaning a procession to the Banni tree (Subsequently, Jambi became Jumbo, while Savari remained unchanged. So today, we have Jumboo Savari and not Jambi Savari).
The royal pavilion from where the Wodeyar Kings worshipped the royal cow, royal elephant, royal camel and royal chariot was at the exact place where the Daria Daulat stands today. Lt. Col. Mark Wilks (1760-1831), who was the Resident of Mysore  from 1803 to 1909 and who fought against Tipu Sultan, also locates the royal Dasara pavilion at this place.  
Unfortunately, the glory of Srirangapatna Dasara is gone and it cannot be revived unless and until the State Government makes sincere efforts to revive the rich cultural heritage and legacy of our ancients.  

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